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A year later, unsolved killing troubles family of Bill Shuler

Authorities so far cannot locate Tony Maresca, who was to meet Bill Shuler for a coin deal.
Authorities so far cannot locate Tony Maresca, who was to meet Bill Shuler for a coin deal.
Published May 23, 2015

Dan Shuler last spoke with his father a year ago this past Monday.

The two were discussing the next time Bill Shuler of Homosassa Springs would visit his sons and grandchildren in Ohio, where the patriarch had served as a pastor for decades, before moving to Florida.

Days later, on May 21, 2014, Dan received another phone call, this time not from his dad, but about his dad. Bill Shuler was missing.

A prominent coin collector and a member of the West Hernando Coin Club, Shuler had told his wife that he was going to meet a man in Holiday, in Pasco County, to purchase coins. Afterward, the couple was supposed to go to Bath & Body Works to buy a lavender candle.

Shuler's body was found two days later in woods near a liquor store on U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs. The man he went to meet, Tony Maresca, hasn't been seen since. The case remains unsolved.

As the one-year anniversary of Shuler's death approached this week, Dan Shuler and other family members talked at length over the phone from Ohio about Bill Shuler's generosity — about the gas tanks he filled with his own money, about the Christmases he gave other families, about the dinners when members of his church congregation, and sometimes complete strangers, joined them at the table.

Local news media dubbed Shuler's death the "coin collector murder," a name Dan thought did an injustice to his father's legacy.

"I just don't want to see my dad and what he stood for and his life summarized down to 'coin collector,' " said Dan, 45.

"I can tell you right off the bat, if you can imagine someone who had no hate in them, not a bad bone in their body, that would basically paint the picture of my grandfather," said Shuler's grandson, Michael Jr., 24.

More than 1,000 people attended Shuler's funeral in Miamisburg, Ohio, where the family is from, and where Shuler served as a pastor for more than 20 years.

"He had such far-reaching impact on so many people's live, I'll never know the full extent," Dan Shuler said. "I'd love to be mistaken for my dad one day."

Family members said Shuler was shot in the head, and the motive most likely was robbery, said lead Detective Dan Toner of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Shuler dealt exclusively in coins and cash, so if he was doing a business deal, he would have had either one, or both, on him.

But the investigation is still ongoing. Maresca is a suspect, Toner said, though the State Attorney's Office has told Toner it does not have enough evidence to charge him.

Detectives are working to find witnesses and piece together where Maresca was in the days before he met Shuler. Additionally, the crime lab is still processing forensic evidence, Toner said.

One of the reasons the investigation has been challenging is because detectives have yet to speak with Maresca. He lived with his girlfriend, Tammy Plochocki, and their daughter on Tumbleweed Drive in Holiday and sold coins and trinkets at area flea markets, though not high-end items such as Shuler's, Toner said. Plochocki still lives there, but Maresca left town after the incident last year.

He could be in New York, where he's originally from, or in North Carolina, where he has family, Toner said.

"In a situation like this, I'm assuming he either has friends or family who have assisted him in some way," Toner said.

Diana Fatkin, who lives next door to Plochocki, said the buzz around the neighborhood is that Maresca is in Georgia and that Plochocki visits every few weeks. Plochocki, however, told the Tampa Bay Times she does not know where he is.

Outside her home on Tuesday evening, she declined to answer other questions.

"I've done nothing but bend over backward to help everyone, and my life is falling apart right now," she said. "I know the (Shuler) family has been through a lot, but I'm a victim, too."

The hardest part for Dan Shuler about the timing of his father's death is its proximity to Father's Day. Shuler said he used to love picking out the right card for his dad, usually a funny one.

"Now, I find myself in tears as I walk down the aisle and catch a glimpse of the Father's Day cards on display," he said. "Cards that I'll never buy again."

Contact Josh Solomon at jsolomon@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4613. Follow @josh_solomon15.